Updated: Jan 9
by Arlenys Morel
Lo que no entiendo is this...
si una mujer está embarazada y dice que va tener una niña, the response is: “hay que buenoooo, va tener un cuerito.”
Desde que nace la niña “otro cuero en la familia.” Let’s not forget the “prepárate que con esa la vaz a pagar todas.”
We are labeled cueros from the womb y entonce
they be talking maaaadddd shit when we be cuereando for real.
How you mad at me for being who you said I was?
In a full-blown Dominican aunt tone, I hear my cousin call my daughter's name as my daughter, and I walk into tia's house. Mi niña walks straight into the living room—not seeing my cousin in the kitchen to her left. She innocently smiles at the person directly in front of her, my cousin’s husband. Ahi mismo, my cousin, blurts out, “Ah no ella lo que ve es hombre na ma.”
As soon as those words blurted out of my cousin’s mouth, the flashbacks flashed faster than I could speak. My brain replayed the moments when I was shamed, sexualized, and betrayed by the women from my bloodline. Instantly, my thoughts became distorted. The only words I could utter were, “She didn’t see you.”
An arrow immediately pierced my heart. I was livid. I should’ve said more, but I froze for a couple of seconds; I was baffled, attempting to process what I clearly heard. Where was my voice when needing to speak up for this two-year-old girl—mi hija?
My eyebrows rise; I become overwhelmed with questions, thoughts, and scenarios that always conclude with the realization that I come from a matriarch que no tiene hermandad. There is no sense of sister-ship on either side of my family. No empathy. No respect. No love for womanhood.
Me entristece ver como nosotras misma nos abandonamos. God forbid something would ever happen to my little girl; their first remark would be, “Ah no, esa desde chiquita no era fácil.” I could hear it the same way I’ve listened to them make those sorts of claims countless times before; anytime they hear about something happening to a little girl, somehow, it’s always the little girl’s fault.
Desde chiquita tratan y miran a las niñas como mujeres viejas—peor, nos ven como objectos sin humanidad. Our patriarchal culture ensured our own women became mas machista que los mismo “machos.” Conditioning us to believe Dominican women aren’t worthy of gentleness, praise, or admiration.
From the womb, we’re cast as sexual burdens, while boys are molded to be prideful perverts.
There’s no shock at the need to stand up for my daughter at such an early age. Still, I was dismayed at how comfortable a grown-ass woman, my family member, felt spewing such vile judgment. It’s as if it were normal to believe that two-year-old toddler girls are prancing around intentionally seeking out men. I call that womb-agony or wumogyny—it’s misogyny on estrogen—the worst kind if you ask me. We have stereotyped and chastised how Dominican men treat women, but when are we, as women going to start opening up about how cold the treatment is from woman to woman in our culture?
I come from two very distinct families.
Papi’s side son lo que privan en fino; I call them the silent sinners.
Mami’s side is the wild side—we don’t fuck and hide—the we fuck with pride side.
My family is women dominant from both sides—mami’s side being made up of seven girls and one boy. Papi’s side having four girls and three boys— de ninguno de los dos lados la mujer es valorada. Ninguna de las hermanas se conocen internamente. No existe un lenguaje de amor ni de respeto hacia las mujeres. Madres e hijas desconectadas de si mismas. Tias y sobrinas sin confianza y sin conexión, porque en vez de hablarse y apoyarse lo que aportan son críticas y chismes. Tantas mujeres y la hermandad pa' cuando?
Growing up, mami spoke about how it’s not appropriate de tener mucho novio; papi was always celebrated for his cuerero energy and being a master mujeriego.
How I’m a hoe like my daddy, but society says that’s mami’s to blame?
Sex is way deeper than metiendo y sacando; not being taught anything and have learned on your own is trash. We abuse our bodies and miss out on the REAL experience
These behaviors and conversations are so normalized in our salas that unless you genuinely do the work of unlearning it, you probably won’t recognize it. It’s disheartening how young girls aren’t safe, protected, or empowered in a family made up of so many women. We laugh, feel guilt, shame, and gossip about it, but we never have vulnerable conversations about intimacy—the most harmful behavior passed down to me. We satisfy our natural curiosities with our explorations. What does that lead to? Boys and girls que nama saben que quieren rapar y ya. Women are taught que la mujer exists to please and serve the man. Men are taught that what makes them “the man” is how many novias they can serve their ripio to simultaneously.
Enraged by triggered memories, the little girl in me that didn’t have anyone to stand up for her was also hurt, I feel the need to say more. After days of processing and transmuting this blinding rage, the audacity still stings. The question lingers, porque nos sexualizan desde temprana edad? Cuando uno entra en la adolescencia y por naturaleza la curiosidad comienza a despertarse, en vez de guiarnos, nos dan la espalda.
Not one day goes by without mama telling a story
about sex, hilariously, through coded words.
“la cosa” and “comiendo gallina.”
Unless you have the Dominican decipher
the lingo, you will never know—
a common theme in my family when it comes to sex.
I have witnessed mothers in my family burden their daughters with trivialities simply because that’s how they were raised. I’m the family’s proud “sin vergüenza,” and I believe in speaking openly with your kid about sexuality—all in due time, of course. My daughter comes from me. She Is an extension of me. It is an honor and a responsibility to be able to teach her as early as possible everything I had to learn so late on my own.
I pray one day, my cousin and all the hardened woman in my family will allow themselves a certain softness. Until that day comes, I’ll be here protecting my daughter, myself, and all women as we break free from the pains that have traveled through the wombs of our bloodlines, reclaiming our hermandad and creating healthy environments where our femininity is safe and honored.
Arlenys Morel is a Dominican-American creative force, raw storyteller, limitless writer, and passionate performer. Her work is rooted in liberating generational inherited trauma and abuse of her bloodline. Arlenys has performed at the infamous Gotham comedy club, The Pit- NYC, and is a Nuyorican Poets Cafe Wednesday night slam winner. The Dominican Writers Association had featured her. She writes for dreamers & guerreras.